Publisher: Red Mile Entertainment
Developer: Sidhe Interactive
Release Date: September 25, 2007
Many minigame compilations emphasize hand-eye coordination, timing and perfecting some process as a means to a more desirable end. Not so with Jackass: The Game where, in keeping with the spirit of the show upon which it's based, sometimes failing horribly at a challenge nets you the best results. It's this non-reliance on perfection that makes the game somewhat fun, but as you get further into it, the recycled content and unimpressive visuals may rein its staying power back to being only a rental except to the most die-hard fans of the show.
This brings up the first big point. The "Jackass" show has been off the air for some time now, the cast having split up to embark on their own respective endeavors (Viva La Bam, Wild Boyz, etc.) to varying degrees of success. So why release the game now, after the height of the franchise's popularity has passed? Personally, I thought the best humor came from the ensemble of different personalities working off one another, and the game recognizes this fact and the show's breakup to some degree, as you start with only a few of the cast members with one of your objectives being to reunite the others for one last blowout season of the show.
That'd be funny in real life. In the game, there are a few laughs, but it's seldom as entertaining as the show. The movement and reactions of the polygonal avatars of Johnny Knoxville, Dave England, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Steve-O and the rest of the gang simply look too rigid to be hilarious except by accident. The rag-doll physics are a bit too much correction in the other direction, though, making the characters careen around lifelessly. In any case, it was all motion captured, and all of the voice work is done by the original guys, so you can't accuse it of not being as close to the real deal as possible.
Anyway, this fictional season starts with Jeff Tremaine getting injured while filming a stunt, creating the need for a new director to take over in his absence. The show must go on! Your task is to create something that will bring in the bucks, increase ratings and entertain the masses. A preset list of stunts is presented to you for each episode of the season, and then you're off to capture the footage you need.
There's not much intro into what you have to do for each stunt, which is lamentable at times, but they're simple enough that scanning the screen for what's in the HUD should bring you up to speed quickly enough. All of the controls, meters and such are right there for you. A driving stunt will show you which buttons are for gas, brake, look behind, bail out and the like. The rooftop pogo simply says "Hit X when the meter is full to jump higher," and the more complicated task of navigation and timing is all up to you. It's not bad, but a quick intro screen on what you have to do would have been nice, especially for people not already familiar with the myriad ways you have to interact with the game. I recognize a rhythm-action sequence from a mile away, but would everyone else out there?
There's an overall goal you're shooting for in each event, but completely screwing it up and flailing out of control is also perfectly acceptable, and sometimes even desirable. The task of getting the footage doesn't really put you in the shoes of the camera operator, à la Playboy: The Mansion, but rather you play as the jackass in question, and there are cameras strategically placed here and there. It also eschews the cutting together of footage at the end in an editorial role, as you might in the Driver or Stuntman franchises. As a re-creation of being a director and piecing together a good show, it's missing a lot of beats. As a simple collection of mildly entertaining minigames wherein being called "stupid" is a compliment, it does somewhat better.
When I first got to one of the few games were you ride behind a car holding a rope and riding a trash can lid, for some reason a screenshot of Hooters Road Trip shot through my mind, and looking at them now, I wasn't too far off. The graphics in pretty much every event are bland compared to anything else hitting the PS2 these days, with flat, drab and even grainy textures, low-polygon counts on everything in the environment and effects that make sparks resemble confetti. In the rooftop events (bumper cars, pogoing, etc.), when you fall off the roof, you just fall into a very finite black pit. No ground, no textures. You just fall for a while into the blackness till you hit the mysterious bottom.
That final impact can lead to some of the silliest stuff in Jackass: The Game, and this is where it goes far beyond anything that happened in the show. Sure, Bam broke his tailbone and Ryan put a Matchbox car where the sun don't shine in real life, but playing bumper cars on the roof of a skyscraper or hitting grenades at your buddies with a golf club is a bit more serious and calls for more life-threatening injuries. In this regard, the game can outdo the show, tallying up crazy damage bonuses for breaking dozens of bones, rupturing spleens, and tearing scrotums, all for entertainment's sake. In addition to trying to rack up an immense hospital bill, you're given other objectives to complete, such as hitting a certain number of trash cans, grinding so many yards of fence, busting gargoyle heads off, bailing out into a particular target, hitting someone in the nuts with a paintball and so on. They're not really secondary objectives because you have to do them to get enough money and footage for the episode to be worthwhile, but the primary objective would seem to be to get to the finish line or end of the timed event or be the last man standing. If you've seen the show, you know that the primary objective is seldom the best part of a scene. It's the chaos and mistakes that ensue that make it worth viewing.
However, as things roll on, you start to get a feeling of déjà vu. Demolition Golf merely changes what you're aiming at for another event. Terrorizing a minigolf course in a golf cart feels a lot like the same game later, where you're playing flag tag with other karts. Reusing the same setting for the idiot catapult as a cart racing game feels a little stale. The first three episodes are amusing and fresh. Beyond that, it's mainly remixes and recombinations of things you've already done in previous stunts.
The big pile of unlockable costumes, characters and video clips is accessed by completing all of the objectives for every event, which is generally required to get enough money and footage to pass the episode successfully, so you're getting stuff basically without any extra effort. However, this is all mostly cosmetic. Party Boy doesn't control or play any differently than Leeza Gibbons (yes, that Leeza Gibbons), nor do the alternate outfits play any more of a role in the game than maybe to garner a few giggles. The video clips are perhaps the extra content about which I have the most mixed feelings. It's nothing that fans of the show haven't seen already, and for a lot less effort, you could buy the "Jackass" complete box set on DVD for about the same price as this game. Similar comparisons were made between actually having to play "The Guy Game" to see boobies or just turning on Cinemax after dark or typing virtually anything into a Google image search. Ergo, there are easier means to this end.
Further play also unlocks all of the events for play in the more difficult Challenge mode. Whether or not you find them replayable and enjoyable will vary, but for me, once was enough on just about every event in Jackass: The Game. Nothing's really wrong with them, and some have a small spark of creativity, but at no point did I find it as amusing as watching the actual TV show.
Multiplayer modes exist for most events, generally consisting of playing round-robin through a chosen list of maps or going head-to-head (or ass-to-ass, as it's called in the game) in specific showdowns. This is how the genre thrives, and it's likely where this game has the most replayability, but that's unfortunately still not saying much. No online modes also curtail the chances of random people coming together to be stupid as a group. That could have actually worked in a game like this, given how asinine many players' interactions are with the random online community.
I like the "Jackass" show. I really do, and I don't like coming down on the video game interpretation of it, but without a true director mode, it lacks depth, and once you get your laughs out of the minigames once or twice, you'll be ready to move on. Jackass: The Game is best as a rental to see if the lukewarm appeal grabs you. The ability to screw up an event and actually get a better outcome for it is a refreshing change from the sometimes frustrating and punishing exactness and perfection required to master other games in the genre. It's also a nice change from the cutesy kids-oriented nature of many other party games. It's not broken, and it's not especially bad, but it's not terribly good, either. Those of you who worship the show might be able to justify adding another half-point or so to the score.
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